Japan vs Japanese
I had quite a few Japanese restaurants on my list of restaurants to go to in NYC but I am not going to Tokyo just after this.
My question is this, what Japanese restaurants are something I would not be getting in Tokyo or are better/different.
My original list of restaurants in NYC was (possible to go)
If your question was the opposite, there would be many restaurants in Tokyo and other cities in japan that blow away any of the restaurants in NYC. i.e. tempura restaurants in Tokyo, Kaiseki in Kyoto.. etc
That being said, you ask about Japanese restaurants here, with food you will not be getting in Tokyo. ( different not better) I would list the following:
Soto for his "fancy, modern" sashimi dish appetizers
Sushi of Gari ( who failed in Tokyo) but his "modern" sushi is something to definitely try at least once ( Sushi Seki is similar)
Brushstroke's take on kaiseki
Kyo ya has some good dishes that I have not seen at kaiseki places in Kyoto ,,,,I do not know what kaiseki Tokyo offers , as Kyoto is the place for this.
Greenwich Grill (japanese Italianish) has some good pasta dishes, and good grilled fish. They do have restaurant in Nagoya, but i'm not sure about Tokyo.
Basta Pasta has some good pasta dishes some with Japanese flavors,, it is Japanese run.
So of your list,,,,,, Soto's dishes I mentioned,,,,, Kyo Ya a maybe,,,, Tori Shin a no, Kajitsu a no, 15 East ( perhaps the wine pairing , which I never had) ,but for sushi , although 15 East is exceptional, you will get exceptional sushi in Tokyo.
Sakagura is 2nd rate compared to Tokyo,,,
The previous chef at Kajitsu really took advantage of local NY\NJ produce(husk cherries, local corn, purple carrots, fairytale eggplants. jersey tomaotes, local stone fruits) and non Japanese herbs\spices(keffir lime, thai basil, verbena) and incorporated into his style of shojin ryori, even his wagashi used some local ingredients. Definitely a bit different than what you would find in Tokyo.
While i agree that most everything will be better in Japan, i will list one possible exception that might be of interest...if you like white and red wine with your sushi, 15 East does wine pairings with the omakase: a wonderful assortment of tastes, half-glasses, and full glasses (maybe up to 9 or so diff wines) with different sashimi and sushi courses...i know many Japanese friends who have found the combinations to be exceptional and unavailable in Japan...
re: Skillet Licker
I think it always goes that food outside of the country tends to have its own take on what is traditional and good and the dishes slowly change and evolve in to something not quite like the original.
I am very excited to try the crudo at Marea and wish there was a Japanese restaurant which would do something along the same lines. Japanese restaurants do carpaccio often but it is always the same few ingredients and they don't play with those - ie ponzu, yuzu, ginger, garlic, soy. I bought the Uchi cookbook and the author was going in the right direction but not quite far enough.
I do love sushi and appreciate fresh unadulterated fish (nigiri/sashimi) but I think there is so much more which can be done which accentuates the flavour yet allows you to still appreciate the flavour of the fish fully. An example of this is a piece of nigiri I had in Japan. It was only topped with a small amount of Salt and rubbed with a lemon - amazing. I don't see that at any restaurants here in Vancouver. I also had an asparagus, amaebi, cabbage, sesame seed, mayo, handroll (no rice) which was one of the most amazing things I've ever had (I had this at a sushi street cart in the night market in Taipei)
Two dishes which I make often -
"Japanese" avocado, schichimi, sesame oil vinaigrette (sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, simple syrup, dash of shoyu)
"Italian" "carbonara" - fry diced lardons (thick cut bacon), add pasta, add black pepper until the pasta is dark, Parmesan, plate and top with two egg yolks and more Parmesan.
(I like to think of it as "carbon"-ara)
You mean what is available in NY in terms of Japanese food that wouldn't be available in Tokyo? The answer is nothing, or at least nothing worth eating. Crapola fancy rolls don't count (see previous sentence).
The range and quality of Japanese food available in Japan is not even worth comparing to what's available in New York. This is pretty much all price points, styles, and regional specialties. There is nothing in New York that would be considered "better" relative to its counterpart in Tokyo. Different, yes, but not in a good way.
re: Uncle Yabai
Thanks Uncle! I enjoy many of your posts over on the Japan Board.
I was planning on eating at quite a few Japanese restaurants in NYC (most of the ones listed above) but had reduced them down to Soto - I guess I will cross that out too.
People always say the Japanese food in Vancouver is "really amazing" but I've come to realize over the past few years that it may be, but only at the low end. New York has much more high end options than Vancouver.
On a side note, if you ever visit Vancouver do not go to Tojo's - disappointment awaits you.
My parents are from Vancouver and I'm planning on taking them to either 15 East or Sushi Yasuda in September. They are two of my favorites, and I hope it will rock their world.
Also, I think Vancouver is like the rest of the West Coast. They have great food, in their own way; they just don't care much for haute dining.